Buenas todos, today I’m gonna be discussing culture shock and how I’ve experienced it during my time here in Costa Rica.
Culture shock is a common and expected concept that an individual will experience when living in a different country for any period of time — especially a three month study abroad trip; it can stem from a variety of differences but is rooted in the overall effect of change within your already understood lifestyle and habits. Although my study abroad experience lies in the city capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, the term ‘city’ is yet completely different then the cities we have grown to know in the United States, such as Philadelphia. The buildings are smaller, there are dogs instead of squirrels, and it is more common to greet, smile, or wave to the people who may simply walk past you on the street or wait at the same crosswalk. There are many wonderful assets through being completely new to a culture that may seem parallel to your own, but many fundamental people skills are built through these experiences and expanding outside your own comfort zone.
When I first moved to Costa Rica, one of the most difficult transitions for me was the language barrier. Although this was expected, it does not surpass the anxiety or over-stimulation that may surround you in certain situations when you are not able to confidently communicate or express your thoughts, even to those closest to you. Through this, I have found security in knowing that those around me want to help others learn their language and express well that patience is truly a virtue. Over my time here, I have written phrases or words in a small notebook that I carry with me, that I know I will commonly use; with this, I have also been able to recognize my growth in learning a new language and building off of what you already know is more valuable then it may be perceived.
Another relevant pointer relating to culture shock in my time studying abroad, has been the incorporation of being a part of a large community based culture. The people of Costa Rica are not only friendly and incredibly immersed with one another, but are very communicative and reliant on quality time to their close family and friends. While staying with a host family, there are common parts of the day where you spend time sharing a meal with your family, running errands, or even being introduced to extended family or friends. It has been a common experience having a large variety of people in and out of your homestay house throughout the day. As a college student from a large city like Philadelphia, it’s understandable to be used to alone time and not being surrounded by others, let alone a family or children, consistently. Through this, I have found the beauty and security in these moments and have developed an optimistic outlook on the time I spend with these families.
Overall, culture shock is inevitable, just as change is. The best way to approach it, is to find the thrill in learning what’s new to you; and knowing that others genuinely WANT to help share their way of life with those who are interested and patient.